28 ultra-Orthodox journalists arrested on suspicion of extortionPolice nab senior staff and editors of Hapeles newspaper for alleged harassment of potential advertisers

The Times of Israel/April 18, 2017

Police arrested 28 employees of an ultra-Orthodox newspaper on Tuesday morning on suspicion of extortion and harassment.

In a nationwide sting, police arrested senior staff and editors of the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hapeles, following a six-month investigation.

Police also searched the newspaper’s offices and collected files, following dozens of complaints that over the past year the newspaper allegedly extorted major corporations, including government-owned companies, in order to force them to purchase advertising in the paper.

Some 250 police officers, investigators and other security personnel took part in the raid, arresting suspects in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit, Ashdod, and other parts of the country.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews rioted in Bnei Brak as the arrests were taking place.

The suspects will be brought to Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court.

The alleged harassment came in the form of constant phone calls, emails and faxes to the CEOs of companies. The investigation found that the suspects would make use of a call center which they had set up, known as the “battle line,” in which they would set daily targets of which companies would be harassed and to what extent.

Once the call center had received its daily instructions it would allegedly make dozens or hundreds of phone calls, and send faxes and emails, to the heads of the companies and even to their family members, which disrupted the running of the companies.

The paper is the mouthpiece of the Jerusalem faction of the non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox community. It is affiliated with Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who instructed his followers to take part in a series of protests and riots over the past few weeks against ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF, blocking streets and fighting with police.

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